Bridget Churchill and her husband opened Steel House Doggy Daycare in October. Located just minutes from St. Albert, and on paved roads that lead to a massive indoor/outdoor complex where dogs are free to run off leash, the business concept was a success.
Then the pandemic took hold. Just months into their new venture, the business was hit by a slew of cancellations.
“It was pretty drastic,” Bridget admits. “We were just starting to pick up, especially on the boarding. Within two days all the boarding was completely cancelled, and a lot of the daycare started to drop off.
“I am thankful for the clients I had from the beginning that continued to come. Some stopped for a week or two but once they realized I was essential and had all the hand sanitizer and safety protocols in place long before the pandemic (due to the nature of the business) some of my clients returned.
"I’m very grateful for the clients that support us, but in reality, I’m just trying to hang on like everyone else.”
Bridget’s sons are involved in the business. To keep staff and clients safe, customers unleash their dogs inside at the double gates. A team member takes the dog from there, everyone stays six feet apart.
“There is zero contact,” Bridget confirms, “and that is easy because our facility is huge! It has two giant bay doors and a double-height ceiling. When the doors are open, it doesn’t even feel like you are inside.”
Despite the hardships of trying to keep a new business afloat during the pandemic, Steel House Doggy Daycare, 24 Kurylik Blvd., Sturgeon County, is determined to help the community during this time. Bridget is going to apply for the wage subsidy with the hopes of providing part-time employment.
“The only way to get through this is by sheer will and determination!” she says. “You have to draw deep and remember that you have the support of community, friends, and family.”
Nerissa McNaughton is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Great West Newspapers. This story was funded by the Facebook Journalism Project Supporting Local News Coverage of COVID-19 Program via the Local Media Foundation.